Packing for 80 year old faucet

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by cjlindem, Aug 19, 2013.

  1. cjlindem

    cjlindem New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I have some antique faucets/spigots with valve stem leaks. The existing packing appears to be cloth which was compressed into the shape of a dome, which once filled the space inside the faucet bonnet. I've had mixed results with replacing it with graphite string stem packing. But the problem is that the compartment that needs to be filled by the packing is large. The removed cloth dome "washer" is about 3/4" x 1/2". If I use large amounts of the packing string, it eventually fills the cavity, but I can't help but think there is a more appropriate product to fix this. I am seeing "felt bonnet packing" for sale, but it just appears to be a dry donut of felt, and I am not sure if it's empregnated with something waterproof, or what its purpose is. Thanks for any help.
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,315
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    IF you have the old one, and the bonnet, take it to a hardware store. They should have a collection of various shapes which should match what you have. Even a close fit will compress to fill the cavity, but be sure you have a metal washer under it to create the compression.
  3. cjlindem

    cjlindem New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    New Jersey
    What would the modern replacement for the old packing be, a rubber dome washer of some sort? Is felt bonnet packing used for this purpose? Thanks!
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,315
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    They are usually a graphite impregnated felt, which can compress to the formation needed, or sometimes rubber but a rubber one would have to be an exact match.
  5. MgFrobozz

    MgFrobozz New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Oregon
    In my case, I had some trouble finding an equivalent bonnet packing, and I was worried that I'd crack the pipe if I tried to just remove and replace the faucet. It looked like the old packing had worn some around the shaft. I ended up getting some faucet packing string from our local Ace store. I left the old packing in place, wound about 5 turns clockwise around the valve stem, flattened it slightly (to try to get more of the material compacted into the worn area in the old packing), then screwed the bonnet nut back on. No leaks at all afterward.
  6. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots Sprinkler Guy

    Messages:
    798
    Location:
    Metro NYC
    It sometimes is necessary to replace the metal washer underneath the packing, or else it can't be compressed to make a seal.
  7. asktom

    asktom Member

    Messages:
    521
    Location:
    Victor, MT
    I like to use a square cut cloth & rubber packing washer that fits the stem tight and is a little large for the dome. I grind it to shape on a grinding wheel and use silicone grease on the shaft of the stem so I can crank down the nut without making the handle hard to turn. If there is room, I add a cloth & rubber top bibb washer above the metal washer.
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,315
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; I grind it to shape on a grinding wheel and use silicone grease on the shaft of the stem s

    You either have a lot of time on your hands or don't charge enough for your time if you are doing this for customers, unless they are getting a huge bill.
  9. asktom

    asktom Member

    Messages:
    521
    Location:
    Victor, MT
    I did it in a retail plumbing supply store that emphasised service. It only takes a minute if you have the parts and grinder right there. I agree it wouldn't really cut it in the field, but my sense is that the original poster is doing it at home. Perhaps he has a grinder in the garage.
  10. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots Sprinkler Guy

    Messages:
    798
    Location:
    Metro NYC
    I don't think I ever saw any old sillcock that couldn't be put right with some stem packing and a washer for the seat and, if needed, a new metal washer to support the stem packing. I was obliged to learn about them because they were sometimes utilized to supply a sprinkler system, and they had to be drip-free at all times.

    In fact, the oldies might outlast the standard Nibco sillcocks I see in 50-year old homes, some of which are needing replacement, or a 'guts swap'
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2013
  11. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    Good luck with that ;)

    I opened the valves on the original faucet on my 1949 bathroom sink and found that the cold one had a proper brass washer below what looks like a "kinda rubber, kinda not" domed washer. The hot one had a mangled rubber washer instead. Ace didn't have ANYTHING close but I found one at a local "one owner, one store" hardware store where they bored it out and ground it down to be the right size - FOR FREE. Small local businesses run on SERVICE !! The problem I now have with the faucet is it leaks where the spout comes out of the base. I guess I shouldn't have cleaned off all the ancient "crust" around the base of the spout that apparently kept water from leaking out (after enough HAD leaked out once whatever seal was originally there started to fail). Not sure how to separate the 2 pieces since after removing the rock hard plumbers putty that totally filled the base, I find that the spout is held on by a nut that looks like a washer with 2 flat sides. Is there some sort of special wrench for this sort of thing? It is a good 1/2" or more up inside the base so it isn't something a regular wrench can be slipped over at a flat angle.

    Bruce
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